‘Andy Gray-gate’ highlights slack media practice

Andy Gray’s sacking today after another of his puerile outbursts (this time to colleague Charlotte Jackson last month, above) has taught him a harsh lesson. Someone of his experience should know that ‘private’ (as in off air) comments are still fair game if someone within earshot finds them offensive enough to share with the media. In fact, if you utter them in a room full of people, it isn’t very ‘private’ at all, and therefore probably best kept to yourself.

The fact that Gray was sacked within hours of the 11-second clip hitting the internet shows how quickly a damage limitation exercise can lurch towards crisis management. Sky could not be accused of being slow to act. But they were hardly given much option after the statements they made yesterday.

This isn’t supposed to be a football blog, but stick with me. The reason I’m blogging about it is that other journalists, who should know better, have also failed to uphold some pretty basic standards of practice in their reporting of the affair – and I think this is worth sharing. I’ve listed the two examples that have caught my eye below.

1. Check the facts before you pass judgement: Roy Greenslade, of all people, failed to do this when he wrote a piece today accusing The Sun of not covering the troubles at its News International stablemate. Unfortunately for him, it had gone to town on it. Greenslade had mistakenly based his piece on the previous day’s papers and a blog posting on the Guardian’s website yesterday, which said The Sun had ducked the issue. At least he had the good grace to apologise (and it is worth a read).

2. Check your sources: Also apologising for a basic error was The Independent, who ran a piece yesterday attributing quotes about Richard Keys and Andy Gray, that had appeared on the @andydtownsend Twitter feed, to fellow pundit Andy Townsend. Problem was, it wasn’t the real Andy Townsend – a fact which Twitter makes pretty easy to verify and something that clearly wasn’t properly checked with the pundit himself. The Twitter account and offending online article no longer exist, so it is not easy to find out what was said. But one could imagine Townsend’s distress when he was told what was he was accused of tweeting.

Not a good day for punditry.

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